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Inside Politics

Democrats to Bush: Don't pardon Libby

Story Highlights

• Reid, Pelosi, Dean, Clinton, Obama blast administration
• Cheney says he's disappointed with conviction of former chief of staff
• Vice president's ex-aide convicted of lying in outing of CIA operative
• Libby attorney says he will seek a new trial or appeal the verdict if motion denied
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic leaders urged President Bush not to pardon former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted on federal charges Tuesday.

Libby's attorneys, meanwhile, vowed to seek a new trial, or, failing that, to appeal the jury's verdict.

Libby was convicted of lying and obstructing an investigation into the Bush administration's actions leading into the Iraq war. (Watch Democrats use verdict to pressure president Video )

He resigned after being indicted in October 2005.

Vice President Dick Cheney, in a written statement, said he was "disappointed with the verdict."

"I am saddened for Scooter and his family," Cheney said. "As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service."

Federal officials began an investigation in December 2003 into how the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame was divulged to reporters in the weeks before Robert Novak named her in a July 14, 2003, column. Libby was not charged with the actual leak.

Novak attributed his information to "two senior administration officials" -- later identified as President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Neither testified in Libby's trial.

Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had openly questioned part of Bush's basis for invading Iraq. He wrote a controversial New York Times op-ed piece that was published July 6, 2003.

Prosecutors argued Libby lied about how he learned of Plame's CIA role to protect his job. Her role, they said, was deliberately released in retribution for her husband's report. (Watch how the conviction played out Video)

Democrats seize chance to criticize administration

"It's about time someone in the Bush administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Lewis Libby has been convicted of perjury, but his trial revealed deeper truths about Vice President Cheney's role in this sordid affair. Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct."

Added House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush administration. The testimony unmistakably revealed -- at the highest levels of the Bush administration -- a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the investigation should go deeper.

"There's a lot more going on here than just this," Dean said on CNN's "The Situation Room."

"We know that the president was not truthful with the American people when he sent us to war," he said. "We don't know if the president committed a crime or not; it would be interesting to find that out." (Watch Dean tar Bush and Cheney Video)

However, Dean did not recommend appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush.

The leading Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, weighed in as well.

"While justice has been served in the Libby case, the real lesson to come from it is that we must be vigilant in ensuring that the intelligence on burgeoning threats to our nation is beyond reproach," read a statement on Clinton's Web site.

Obama said in a statement that Libby's conviction "underscores what happens when our foreign and national security policies are subverted by politics and ideology."

Defense blames memory lapses

During 14 days of evidence and testimony, Libby's lawyers argued that Libby's heavy workload caused memory lapses when he spoke with investigators.

Jurors who found Libby guilty also found him worthy of sympathy, one juror said. (Full story)

"We're not saying we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of, but it seemed like ... he was the fall guy," Denis Collins said. (Watch a juror explain how there was sympathy for 'fall guy' Libby Video)

Wilson and Plame have filed a lawsuit against Libby, Cheney, Bush political adviser Karl Rove and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Wilson told reporters in a teleconference call that the verdict won't stop that legal action.

"The vice president was quoted as saying he was sorry for Mr. Libby and his family," Wilson said. (Watch Wilson's reaction to verdict Video)

"I wish that he would express his sorrow for what has happened to my wife, whose career was destroyed as a result of this, and to the [military] service people for a war that was justified by lies and disinformation."

Libby appears 'somewhat surprised'

As the verdicts were read, Libby blinked and "it seemed as if he was somewhat surprised," CNN's Brianna Keilar reported. (Watch Keilar describe Libby's wife weeping Video)

Libby was fingerprinted and released on his own recognizance.

"We are very disappointed in the verdict of the jurors," lead defense attorney Ted Wells said. "Despite our disappointment in the jurors' verdict, we believe in the American justice system, and we believe in the jury system.

"We intend to file a motion for a new trial and, if that is denied, we will appeal the conviction, and we have every confidence that ultimately Mr. Libby will be vindicated."

He took no questions.

"The jury worked very long and hard and deliberated at length," said Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who led the leak probe. "The jury was obviously convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had lied and obstructed justice in a serious manner."

"I do not expect to file any further charges," Fitzgerald said. "We're all going back to our day jobs."

Libby, 56, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. A hearing on a presentencing report is scheduled for June 5.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said, "He is virtually certain to go to prison if this conviction is upheld." (Watch Toobin assess Libby's chances of being pardoned Video)

Libby initially told investigators he learned about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert. He later said he got the information from Cheney a month before the telephone conversation with Russert, but forgot about it.

Russert testified that there was no discussion of Plame in that conversation.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Paul Courson contributed to this report.


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I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, center, leaves the courthouse in Washington on Tuesday after being convicted in the CIA leak case.

THE VERDICTS

The jury's verdicts in the case against I. Lewis "Scooter " Libby:

Guilty: Obstruction of justice for intentionally deceiving a grand jury investigating the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.

Guilty: Making a false statement for lying to FBI agents about a conversation with NBC newsman Tim Russert.

Guilty: Perjury for lying in court about his conversation with Russert.

Guilty: Perjury for lying in court about conversations with other reporters.

Not guilty: Making a false statement regarding a conversation he had with former Time magazine writer Matt Cooper.

SPECIAL REPORT

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